University City District and Partners Celebrate Official Opening of Trolley Portal Gardens and Trolley Car Station

Thursday, September 27, 2018

For Immediate Release   

Contact: Alissa Weiss, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications Manager, 
[email protected] or 215-243-0555x251    


University City District and Partners Celebrate Official Opening of Trolley Portal Gardens and Trolley Car Station 
$4.5 million project transforms underutilized transit hub into new public space and restaurant 


(Philadelphia, PA - September 27, 2018) Mayor Jim Kenney, University City District President Matthew Bergheiser, SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel, Trolley Car Station Owner Ken Weinstein and other critical stakeholders gathered today to celebrate the opening of Trolley Portal Gardens, the new public space at 40th Street and Baltimore Avenue. The $4.5 million public-private project, located at the busiest at-grade rail station in the city, features a public space and new restaurant, Trolley Car Station.  

Hundreds of local residents gathered to celebrate this new neighborhood amenity and hear remarks from dignitaries and stakeholders. UCD has spent the past several years working to transform the space from a bleak expanse of concrete into a vibrant and social space featuring beautiful landscaping, movable seating, and a restaurant that serves as a community asset. The project improves pedestrian safety while using cutting-edge storm water management techniques and lush landscaping, all of which enhance the commutes of nearly 60,000 riders who pass through the Portal each day. Green City Works, UCD’s landscaping social venture, maintains the space, ensuring that the neighborhood’s beautification is tied to growth and opportunity for local residents.   

Trolley Car Station – sister restaurant to Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy and Trolley Car Café in East Falls – is now the eastern anchor of the Baltimore Avenue business corridor, where thousands of neighbors, commuters, university students and faculty, and employees from the nearby VA Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia converge. The two-story restaurant features outdoor dining, traditional booth seating, a seasonal and locally driven menu, a beer list of 300+ and seats nearly 200 guests.  

“Trolley Portal Gardens leveraged public assets to transform this community with minimal public cost,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “Public, private and community leaders came together to make Trolley Portal Gardens the vibrant public amenity that improves upon West Philly's beloved trolleys. It is not only beautiful and welcoming - it also transformed a once concrete landscape into one that embraced green stormwater management practices, complementing the City's own Green City Clean Waters program.” 

“Trolley Portal Gardens exemplifies what happens when a community and a city come together to make long-desired change happen,” said UCD President Matt Bergheiser. “This project required a unique constellation of partners – from the City of Philadelphia to SEPTA to Trolley Car Station – and funders – from the State to William Penn Foundation and committed residents and more. We are grateful and honored to have worked with such an amazing team.”  

“It always feels great when strong partnerships can transform a space and essentially improve the experience for the community and our riders,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “The Trolley Portal Gardens is an innovative project that exemplifies SEPTA’s mission to ‘Build the Future’ in making this City and region a better place to live, work and play.” 

“Trolley Portal Gardens is the perfect home for our newest Trolley Car restaurant,” said Trolley Car Station Owner Ken Weinstein. “The combination of promoting community and encouraging public transit was a powerful draw for us.  We’re looking forward to providing friendly service and quality, affordable comfort food in the West Philadelphia neighborhood.”  

“More than 1,100 trolleys pass through 40th & Baltimore every day, and we are proud to have provided these riders – and nearby residents and passersby – with a beautiful gateway to West Philadelphia,” commented UCD’s Vice President of Planning and Economic Development Andrew Stober, who spearheaded the project. “Where we once had uninviting concrete, we now have a beautiful green space and local restaurant, benefiting the entire community.” 

“Our primary design objective was to add dignity to the public transit experience, and create high quality public spaces that are welcoming to all,” reflected UCD’s Director of Planning and Design Nate Hommel, who served as lead project manager. “We put our extensive knowledge of public spaces to work, making sure that every element of the site had multiple functions in order to achieve our goals around design, sustainability, safety and more. All these features combined to transform a utilitarian space into a place we are proud to call Trolley Portal Gardens.” 

Trolley Portal Gardens builds upon UCD’s track record of enhancing underutilized assets – such as The Porch at 30th Street Station – for the benefit of the local economy and residents. In order to transform the public space, UCD raised $2.1 million from community residents and businesses; foundations including the William Penn Foundation, the Drumcliff Foundation, and the PECO Green Region Open Space Program; private supporters; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and the City of Philadelphia. The restaurant was privately financed. 

With input from SEPTA, UCD created a site design that emphasized safety and comfort. UCD also received significant input from local community groups and neighbors, including a Trolley Portal Advisory Committee comprised of architecture, engineering, and construction professionals, and neighbors from the immediate vicinity. Andropogon Associates served as the landscape architect for the public space and Group G designed Trolley Car Station. UCD selected the locally based general contractor firm Domus, known for its wide-ranging experience with both new construction and renovation work, to construct the space.  

About University City District: UCD promotes a world class, vibrant University City through major investments in public space development, public maintenance and public safety, by connecting entrepreneurs and residents to economic opportunity, and through the creation and management of destination events. For more information, see: